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Communication Breakdown in Benton County

By Cyndi Lundeberg
By Clundeberg@wbbjtv.com

CAMDEN, Tenn. - A communication problem is plaguing Benton County Law enforcement. Camden Police said they were startled when they realized their radios used to communicate were not working.

Their problem started after the Benton County Sheriff's Department installed a new receiver which was meant to serve the city and county law enforcement. The Camden Police are currently be forced to use telephones or and old radio which they removed from a police car.

Camden Mayor Elvin Johnson said when Sheriff Tony King updated the departments radio system he should have made sure it was compatible with the city's system.

"I'm not holding him responsible, but somebody ought to have known what they were doing before setting it in and cutting us off," he said.

Police said they were answering emergency phone calls through dispatch when all of a sudden their communication went silent.
As of January 1, to stay in compliance with federal law. the sheriffs department bought a new radio system, that was supposed to continue covering city and county law enforcement.

Mayor Johnson said if the police department's receiver cannot be formatted to work with the sheriff's department new receiver, an alternative system will need to be purchased costing tax payers $6,000.

"People sick or having a heart attack if they called here they couldn't get through, that really bothers me. These guys need equipment they've got to have equipment or they're in bad shape," said Johnson.

Camden police say the inability to use their radios and dispatch has slowed down communication in emergency situations. All 911 calls are being redirected to the county sheriff's department.

Camden resident Jennifer Carr sadi knowing the police are not able to respond as quickly as necessary makes her feel uneasy.

"That's not a good feeling. You go anywhere, you want protection, you wanna know they're communicating to protect us," she said.

The lack of communication makes the mayor concerned for the safety of his officers.

"They're out their chasing down someone or a robbery or something they need to call someone or call for back up. If they need some help. If that radio wasn't there, he'd either have to do it himself or just get shot," he said.

Benton County Sheriff Tony King was out of town, Friday and was not available for an interview. The Camden Police Department did not want to appear on camera regarding the breakdown of communication. They said they simply want it resolved.

Mayor Johnson said this issue will be brought up at the Monday's city council meeting.